A Social Media Style Guide for the Far Right (From a Concerned Lefty)

I don’t wade very often into the waters of political argument, and I particularly avoid politics online. I’m opinionated and sarcastic, and I am notoriously bad at letting things go, so it would be far too easy for me to get sucked into some Facebook black hole. The next thing you know, I’m scrolling through hundreds of comments, and comments about comments, and clicking links, and posting links, and then I wake up one day and realize I never finished writing that third book. Continue reading

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Huge Science News

In a development that has rocked the world of particle physics, scientists at a hastily arranged press conference have admitted to losing the long sought-after and recently discovered ‘God particle.’ Flustered researchers in Switzerland released a tersely worded statement about the disappearance of the bosun. Continue reading

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book learnin’

I found a screw on the floor today. Thing is, I don’t think anything I own that’s held together by screws is missing any of its screws. So what could this mean? Is it a clue—some sort of omen? What kind of ‘Lost’-inspired sign is this? Of course, if my life were being scripted by the people who created ‘Lost,’ the clue wouldn’t be explained for six years and then it would just be  part of a fairly heavy-handed quasi-christian allegory, and it would turn out I’ve actually been dead the entire time.

I like to believe that if there were a rip in the cosmological fabric, Alternate Me would be more successful, and be having more sex. You know, a world in which the most admired and highly-paid profession is ‘comedy writer.’ In that world, cops would come to your door to give you pot, and the Oscars would have a category for Best Barely Started Screenplay Idea. And I would fly into the Kodak Theater with my jet-pack to receive my award.

The idea of an alternate universe has always fascinated me. A place that looks like our world but because of some glitch in the time-space continuum is actually a frightening bizarro world filled with people who sort of look like us but ultimately are discovered to be aliens bent on our destruction. For example, Texas.

If I understand this, the Texas Board of Education approved changes to the social studies and history curriculae (-li? –lums? damn, I hate when I forget my Latin declensions!). Anyhoo, that means changes to textbooks in Texas, which means changes to textbooks everywhere because Texas buys a lot of textbooks.

I suppose the changes are meant to bring about a nostalgic return to an era uncluttered by voting rights, or religious rights, or civil rights. Whatever the motivation, the new curriculum will put a distinctly rightward spin on what used to be called ‘facts.’

Apparently the new guidelines require that students be taught that the Founding Fathers were actually very religious, and that the whole church and state thing was meant to be a just a trial separation. I’m guessing the people who voted for these changes also believe that fossil evidence for evolution was manufactured by the liberal media to lead the country down the path to socialized…archaeology, or something.

Although I’m a card-carrying liberal (it’s actually an NPR membership card, but it counts as ID in Arizona), I’m not all that concerned about what ninth-graders in Texas are studying. It’s not that I don’t care about what they read…it’s that I don’t believe many of them will actually remember what they read.

For example—the new textbooks will now imply that free-market economies are better for society than…whatever other kinds of economies there are. See, my point is, I don’t remember, because I learned that stuff from a textbook—meaning, the information stayed in my brain until the test was over. Then—poof! It was as if I never learned it.

I think for most people, what we learned as kids simply served as a placeholders until we learned important things, like things related to our jobs, and how to get laid. I took calculus in high school, and I don’t even remember what calculus is, let alone how to use it.

So I’m not too worried about the next generation being manipulated by their textbooks. I’ve always said that if you want kids to read Shakespeare, ban everything he wrote. Seriously, if high school kids aren’t allowed to read ‘Hamlet,’ they’ll be quoting Polonius in the hallway.

A school in Tennessee actually banned some textbooks a while back. Called them ‘anti-religious.’ And again, I don’t get the problem. You could put a whole section on Satanic rituals in ‘America: Pathways to the Present’ and if it isn’t mentioned in the chapter summary, most students will never see it!

You know, if school boards are gonna revise the curriculum, they should have the balls to go all the way. Why not make history books entirely fictional? Include chapters explaining how the South didn’t lose the Civil War, it’s just laying low and regrouping. Have kids learn that the Underground Railroad was a just another leftist public transit boondoggle. And for god’s sake, bring back home economics classes. Just for girls, of course. They need to have role models, too.

But if high school kids in Texas are required to learn this more…creative version of our history, one more change needs to be mandated. The federal government should require diplomas issued by Texas to have a big Texas-sized asterisk on them so that the rest of us know who we’re dealing with.

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fill ‘er up

So, after this Chilean earthquake, I’m browsing around the web looking for fodder, and the headline at MSNBC says “Pope To Pray For Chile.” Now, I think it’s great for Benedict to take a break from repressing women and spreading misinformation about AIDS, my problem is that it was a headline. As if it were…news.

Obviously the Pope is going to pray for Chile, given the fact that he is…leader of the Catholic Church and Chile is predominantly…Catholic. It’s his job fer chirssake—literally! News would be a headline saying “Pope Snubs Chile—Opts to Not Include Victims In Prayers.”

Edward R. Murrow would spin in his grave–while smoking a cigarette–if he were to see what passes for journalism today. In any given half-hour tv news broadcast, I would say an average of 86.3% of the stories aren’t really news. News should have two ingredients—it should be new, and it should be sorta…important, and to more people than just someone’s immediate family.


The problem of course, is filling the half-hour, or filling up the web page. With three major online news portals and a gazillion ‘aggregators’ (‘we don’t investigate the stories, but we do group ‘em all together for you!”), not enough actual news happens to satisfy them, hence—filler news. We wouldn’t tolerate this in a restaurant—“The chef only has a half portion of the chicken marsala left, so we’re going to fill the rest of your plate some microwave popcorn.”

News filler usually consists of ‘human interest’ stories. Which begs the question—what type of beings are the other stories aimed at? Is there a section of ‘panda interest stories’? In theory, shouldn’t every news story be of interest to…humans?

And for the love of Cronkite, stop interviewing family members of people who have died! It’s not news!

“I know this is a difficult time for you…with your entire family having been killed in the blaze that destroyed your ancestral home, what are you feeling right now?”

“I’m very sad.”

“We’ve got a scoop! Rush this footage to editing!”

They should give anti-journalism awards, like the Razzies they give for worst movies. They could call it the Mister Peabody.

Used to be, tv news was fifteen minutes. Now, there are fifteen minutes of graphics before a breaking news story. Sure, the times were simpler, but the times were also filled with fewer Octomoms. Oh, Octomoms might have existed back then, but we didn’t feel they warranted above-the-fold reporting.


I get my headlines online from MSNBC, because yes, one of my goals has always been to destroy the newspaper industry and eliminate the jobs of hardworking print journalists. Now, since MSNBC is a “joint venture of Microsoft and NBC,” you’d think there would be someone at one of those giant companies who would notice this stupid shit.


But no, at one point last year the headline on their home page was “Osama Still Not Found.” This just in—nothing! That’s not news! It’s—anti-news! It’s bad enough to print ‘news’ about something trivial that happened, but now you’re putting up a story about something that hasn’t happened!


This week in the news we learned that the earthquake in Chile shifted Earth’s axis. Every report about this quoted ‘NASA scientists,’ which I suppose would be more reliable than ‘NASA janitors.’ Anyway, as a result, every day will be shorter by 1.26 milliseconds, which sucks, because I’m really busy at the moment and cannot afford to lose that kind of time.

There was one ‘human interest’ story this week that genuinely touched me. Seems the woman who wrote the first book about crockpot cookery (a bestseller in 1975, in part due to its compelling title, ‘Crockpot Cookery’), died at the age of 88. Mable Hoffman was interred in a late-morning ceremony. Onions, potatoes and chopped bell peppers were added a couple hours later, and she was ready by late afternoon. Thanks—you’ve been a great crowd! Tip your waitresses! Good night!

9.11.01–a comedian’s take

It was a couple of weeks after my friend Kevin had called me and said “Turn on the TV—we’re under attack.” Now, I’m not a morning person, so my first instinct was to hang up. But then I started to assemble the words into some sort of sense—we’re…under…attack.

I then spent the better part of the day staring at my laptop. I was so overwhelmed, I’m not even sure I felt sad for the first hour or so. There wasn’t any room in my skull for sad. My head was too busy saying “what the fuck” on some sort of endless tape loop for it to admit any other feelings. I watched footage of the second plane (and that was really the one that scared us, because the first one, we all prayed, was just a freak accident)…

I watched that footage hundreds of times on September 11th. I realize now that I kept watching it to numb myself to it. Maybe if I watched it enough, I would be able to process it –react to it—and then put it in a box and on a shelf with other things I just watched on TV. (By the way, at this point, I’m sure you’re wondering, “When does the comedy start? I mean, the guy calls himself ‘Mister Comedy,’ fer chrissake.” )

Listen, I was three when JFK was shot. I was eight when we lost Dr. King. I only vaguely remember shots of balconies and hooded gunmen in Munich in 1972. But this. I knew when the second plane hit that this would be the defining moment of my generation. I think if your country is attacked when you’re twenty…well, you’re invincible when your twenty. But I think when your country’s attacked and you’re forty-one, you have more of a feeling of…ownership of the place.

I realized that from March 30, 1960 through September 10th, 2001, I had not felt patriotism. I had, to be sure, recited the Pledge of Allegiance, sung the National Anthem, and even, in fourth grade, constructed a map of the United States out of salt dough. But until about 9:15 on that morning, I didn’t really feel like I was a part of an ‘us.’

That’s also when I truly fell in love with New York. When I saw news reports of New Yorkers lining up for miles to donate blood, I wanted to move there. I’m from earthquake country, and went through the Northridge quake in ’92, and I don’t remember anything like the sense of community I witnessed from three thousand miles away. (I’m not saying that all Angelenos are selfish, craven, career-driven barnacles on an apocalyptic ship…I’m just sayin’…)

So…I wrote this piece about two weeks after the towers fell, and I think it’s a fair representation of what comedians dealt with in the aftermath of 9/11.

Everyone who works as a comedian (admittedly an oxymoron to begin with) had the same thought on September 11th–“I’m gonna have to get a real job–nothing’s ever going to be funny again!!!”

So here’s the deal. Humor is healing. It is what we do when we can’t wrap our brains around really bad things. It’s a wonderful form of collective denial that’s been around since the first really bad thing happened. Though there are no records of this, I’m pretty sure that there were people doing Pompeii jokes after the volcano hit (“Hey gang–real estate tip–next time you buy property, remember these four words–IS THE VOLCANO ACTIVE?”

It’s like that Star  Trek episode where the scary alien energy presence thingie was eventually defeated because the crew of the Enterprise laughed at it. OK, it’s not a lot like that, but you get my point. Or maybe you don’t.

Anyway, the bottom line is, I don’t know any comic who thinks three thousand dead people is funny. But for those of us still here, we have to joke–because if we tried to understand the level of evil we’re talking about here, our heads would explode.

As much of a lefty as I am, I actually feel sorry for George W. (In my defense, at the time I didn’t realize he would lead us into a misguided war as the puppet of some truly evil motherfuckers–I just thought he was stupid.) I mean, he just got the job–hell, he’s probably still figuring out where all the bathrooms are. “Hey–I wonder where this leads…” “Uh, Mr. President, you have a briefing in an hour…Mr. President? Oh shit–would somebody please find W. and point him toward the press room?”

The most telling video clip is the one where Bush was in a classroom being told about the attack. Rule of thumb: any time a guy in a dark suit whispers to the President of the United States, something bad has happened. And thank God the smirk is gone. W. hasn’t smirked since September 11th. Smirking is, I think, a bad thing for a president to do. Credibility-wise.

Saddam Hussein offered to help the United States–if we asked. OK, guy–let’s assume we, as a nation, forgot about the whole accessory-to-terrorism,  biological-warfare-capable, burning-our-presidents-in-effigy-because-we’re–the-Great-Satan thing. How exactly, could you help us? “Mr. President, Hussein sent that shipment of rocks and sand we need…”(Again–my bad. I was naive and bought into the whole ‘biological-weapons-capable’ deal.)

I’m uncomfortable with the fact that, judging by who I saw on the street that night,  the largest number of American flags seem to have been purchased by a group I call ‘tattoo patriots’–and I’m not sure I feel safe with a front line of rednecks and trailer trash defending me. I mean, I just don’t like it that the most vocal people seem to be the type of guys that think  “Hell, me and a couple of buddies ought to just go over there and kick some ass.” It just doesn’t seem the time for rational dialogue right now…

But once again, the true heroes in this national crisis have been the rock stars who, instead of giving some of their gazillions of dollars to the victims of the attack, chose to–sing. But the thing about September 11th that made it unique amongst the challenges we’ve faced, it that nobody knew how they were supposed to react.

The most unfortunate choice of words in the first two weeks–the announcer for a New York Mets I watched who, after a game-winning home run, said “Shea Stadium has just exploded!”. Imagine some poor working-stiff bastard, just wants to hear a little of the ball game, take his mind off the tragedy, and right when he turns on the radio he hears that.

Actually,  think we should all cut Bush a little slack (in retrospect, I take that line back). I’m serious–we’ve all gotten a new job and then a couple months in realized we’re not quite sure we can handle it–you know, they train you at Starbucks and then all of a sudden they start selling some new kind of coffee, and there’s a huge line, and you’re not sure what button to push on the register, and you panic, and the assistant manager tells you don’t worry, just go clean the tables.

Which is sort of what W. probably went through— “Um…guys…nobody told  me what to do if the bad guys CRASH OUR PLANES INTO OUR BUILDINGS!!!” He’s frantically flipping through The Presidency for Dummies–meanwhile I imagine Cheney being a total jerk– “OK ,Mr. President–you need to call the president of   Pakistan—–and his name would be…?” “C’mon Dick–stop messin’ with me–it’s–I know it starts with an M…”

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obama resigns, tired of ‘knuckleheads’

During an appearance with Oprah Winfrey, President Barack Obama today resigned from office, claiming he had become “tired of dealing with knuckleheads.” What follows are excerpts from the surprisingly frank hour-long interview:

Oprah: This week many people are celebrating the killing of Osama Bin Laden, yet your poll numbers are still just slightly over fifty percent. And now, you’re walking away. What would you like the American people to understand about your three years in office?

Obama: First, Oprah, thank you for having me on your show. What I don’t think the American people realize is that my job is…how can I put this…HARDER  THAN THEIRS. I know you all thought I was cool as a symbol—heck, I even got caught up in it—but I wasn’t campaigning to be a symbol. I was handed a big steaming plate of shit by the last guy and was asked to turn it into a chef’s salad. But since about week two of my presidency, everyone’s ‘disappointed.’ Seriously?

Oprah: But your campaign was all about ‘hope’ and ‘change’–

Obama: First of all, what I meant was that the American people should feel free to ‘hope’  for ‘change.’ Sure, we all had a good national catharsis yelling ‘Yes we can!’ but at about ten o’clock on January 20th, ‘we’ weren’t in charge, I was. And this may surprise those of you who missed the last two hundred and thirty-five years of American history, but the guy you pick as president has to work with a whole bunch of other people to get things done.

Oprah: When you were elected, it seemed you had the political capital to make your agenda a reality. What happened?

Obama: Of course, when my approval ratings were higher than Jesus, I wanted nothing more than to enact all of my ideas by some sort of sweeping decree. But it doesn’t work that way, because my office, as it turns out, is located in the REAL WORLD. So I decided to work with the Republicans—fine, I was an idiot on that one, but I actually thought, if any issue were a ‘life or death’ issue worthy of some teamwork, it might be health care, seeing as it deals with…life and death.

Oprah: I think we’re seeing another side of you, Mr. President. What are your real feelings about your critics?

Obama: Well, Oprah, I just get so irritated. I’m so tired of dealing with knuckleheads. But see, the President’s not allowed to be irritated. I’m sure most of you, in your non-presidential jobs, blow off steam once in a while. Not me. I have to be poised and calm, because if I showed the American people how I really felt, it wouldn’t look…presidential. And, there’d be panic in the streets. I swear, Oprah, I’m losing it. If one more person asks ‘what is President Obama’ going to do about this?’ I will snap. I just want to hand them copies of my morning briefings for the last few months and say “You figure this out.”

Oprah: Don’t you have an obligation to the millions who voted for you?

Obama: The people who most annoy me are the people who voted for me. I give the right-wing credit for one thing—they know how to do big-picture thinking. Instead of getting bogged down with details and facts, they simply lump every issue under the heading of ‘family values.’ Whereas my progressive supporters all seem to think that if their particular issue wasn’t made into law by April, then not only did I fail, but I violated their trust and abandoned my principles.

Oprah: Well, to a certain extent–

Obama: I’m not finished. I want to address the people who voted for me. To the sixty-six million, eight-hundred eighty-two thousand, two hundred thirty people who could get past the fact that I’m an Islamic Kenyan socialist, I’m sorry I couldn’t please every one of you. Oh, and I also wasn’t able to do everything I mentioned AT THE SAME TIME .

Oprah: We all remember specific things you promised as a candidate. Why have you not been able to deliver?

Obama: Well, as luck would have it, I didn’t get chosen as President of Gays in the Military, or President of the Environmentalists, or President of the Public Option People. I have to be president of everyone. Which means, somebody’s shit is gonna have to wait. When you’re home, don’t you make little to-do lists and prioritize? Now, imagine if your family had the national media get on your ass because, let’s say, you told them you planned on cleaning the rain gutters but didn’t get around to it yet because you were too busy fixing the broken pipe in the basement. All of sudden you’re having to defend yourself on MSNBC, saying that you realize progress has been slow on the rain gutters but that you are still committed to solving the rain gutter problem.

Oprah: I really appreciate how honest you’re being here.

Obama: As I’ve said, I don’t have the chance to tell people what I really think anymore. I’m too busy trying to figure out a way to keep some sort of health care for people, just in case they start clobbering each other with signs at town hall meetings, raging wackjobs at Tea Parties start shooting people. I didn’t even think the whole ‘Tea Party’ thing was a movement—it’s not like I can actually hear what you’re screaming at me when you march in front of my house—I’m usually way in the back…I thought it was just a bunch of really loud Revolutionary War buffs—you know, like some people reenact the Civil War on weekends.

Oprah: Is there anything else that you’d like to get off your chest?

Obama: Yes. Yes…I’m not thrilled with ‘Saturday Night Live.’ I don’t expect it to be as consistently funny as it was thirty years ago, but Fred Armisen as me? Really? A white guy in blackface?

Oprah: So, you’ve made up your mind to resign. Is there a chance you’ll change your mind?

Obama: Bottom line is, the job just isn’t worth the hassles. And, frankly, it’s too hard. Do you think I really understood every arcane and obscure detail about economics when I was running? I’ll bet most of you didn’t know what a derivative was either. I hired some smart people and we’ve tried to keep all the plates spinning. And guess what? Sometimes two smart people have different ideas about how to fix things. And they have to work out a compromise!

Oprah: When I had Jay-Z on the show, he mentioned how difficult it is to be on top.

Obama: I know how he feels. I suppose I’ll miss some things about being President—there are perks. But there are definitely things I won’t miss. Do you realize there were mornings when the person who woke me up was Rahm Emmanuel? Can I really walk away from that. I think I’m gonna look for a community that needs organizing—that’s where the real changes are made. Can I really walk away from the Presidency? Yes I can.

Oprah: Former President Barack Obama, everybody! Now if you’ll all look under your seats, you’ll find a special gift—it’s a copy of his autobiography, “The Audacity of Hope”!

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